Baidu's Robin Li at the Web 2.0 Summit revealed some information on the extent of his company's reach. "Baidu answers more search queries in China than any other search engine in any other market, including Google in the US."
"We've a lot of room for growth," Li said, as 1/3 of China currently has Internet access which boils down to about 420 million people. According to Li 99% of those people use Baidu as their search engine and that number can more than double with growing popularity of mobile phones.
So why Google wasn't as successful in China? "China is a very different market and Google wasn't close enough to feel the market." Li also blames Silicon Valley. The proliferation of VC money poured into the local search market was one of the reasons Google failed to reach market share. Before it redirected its Chinese site to Google Hong Kong, that's.
Li himself also said he thought about moving Baidu to Hong Kong a year after starting Baidu because of Chinese censorship.
Li also doesn't regret having turned down offers in the $1.5 to $2 billion range from Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft. "I knew Baidu had more potential than 1-2 billion," Li said.